Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lula Magazine Issue 11...Girl of My Dreams?

Why yes, I do wear ball gowns when I read magazines.
I'd like to start this post off by apologizing to the postman who had to be interrogated for the past month as I calmly awaited the arrival of Lula #11 from England. With the apology out of the way I felt strange when reading the new issue as if I had a concrete example to articulate the way I have been feeling about fashion lately, and specifically the laziness that has manifested itself and has thus been sold to consumers (let's be honest, girls). All of the whimsy and fantasy that had been apparent in the former magazines had disappeared and been replaced by boring photo shoots, lengthy question and answer sections (Jason Schwartzman?!?), and interviewers who had developed cultural autism towards their subject matter/interviewees. If I wanted to actually read I'd pick up one of the many books I can't follow through with from being in graduate school, you know?

We all know that everyone is going to go bananas over the new issue and with the rise in the magazine's popularity the 5 copies that the Lincoln Park Borders usually orders have been disappearing faster than you can say "Designer Target collaboration". This begins the quandary of liking something that has now gained an increase in popularity by 100-fold, while cultivating a fevered demand for the rare copies that surface by luck or as of late, by ebay. I suppose the real question I'm asking is who has the Lula girl become and is it worth it to continue to incontrovertibly support a publication that has now become a part of an institution. Perhaps, a personal question I would pose to myself is if my disappointment outweighs my compulsive desire to collect the coveted magazine? I must admit that it's slightly unsettling to see that the collection above representing 5 years of my life.

I remember my friend Courtney telling, no...compelling me to pick up the large $15 magazine that she had seen at the bookstore with the overtly derivative 'Lolita' cover that inspired more than one girl, I'm sure, to pick up those damned heart-shaped glasses. They do lead to trouble though...just ask Evan Rachel Wood. However, I digress, as soon as I flipped through the pages it was evident that both Courtney and I were crushing hard over our new friend Lula whose editorial titles were lyrics to our favorite Hole song, and whose editor-in-chief clearly had a hard-on for baby-doll dresses and 90s nostalgia. Just. Like. Us.

The picture above is one of the standouts from the current issue and is a part of the editorial entitled, "Rainbows in the Dark", which I'm assuming is not a Dio reference, but instead pilfered from Tilly and the Wall lyrics. I feel like the issue would have been stronger if it had been an allusion to Dio because the current rag is very much like the lyrics from the most powerful singer in heavy metal, "You're a picture-just an image caught in time, we're in a lie-you and I, we're words without a rhyme". I'm just going to say it. The whole thing was pretty disappointing considering that it's been 3 months late and has had enough hoopla around the blog-o-hood that Leith Clark must be up to her Orla Kiely dress in social networking questions regarding the whereabouts of the coveted pulp.

Take for example the Vivienne Westwood article, which features not only the most boring fashion spread of examples of Ms. Westwood's designs, but has Laura Mulleavy (Rodarte) asking what can only be described as asking a Nobel Peace Prize Winner what their favorite color is..."You had some involvement in the punk music explosion in London" YEEEEAAAAHHHH. She had a little bit more than "some involvement" with the creation of punk rock...looks like someone needs to stop consulting with teenagers and dieting to please Anna Wintour and go watch "Jubilee". Just reminded me of the scene in "Sid and Nancy" where Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious are screaming, "BOOOOORRRRINNGGG!!! BOOOOORRRRRIIINNNNGGG!!". Can't be helped..that's just what comes to mind.

If one had access not only to Vivienne Westwood's archives, but her current collections as well and was styling for a magazine that only comes out twice a year wouldn't you have picked more editorial-worthy looks than a sweater wrap-dress? Maybe the Mulleavy's wanted to be the only ones that shined in this issue, which is unfortunate because they didn't even do that great of a job showcasing their own designs. Unless you consider photographing Gainsbourg in the same dress over and over and over creative. Oh, but thanks for the photo spread of your parents who looked like Original Zonkeys. It was quite sweet.

The photo above from the shoot entitled 'Under the Pink' (which seems a little gauche-no?) exemplifies this fascination with ill-fitting clothing and styling that looks like a combination of an Amish Bat Mitzvah. How can sequins look so dowdy? It's as if we've entered into two realms of the unreal in fashion...either matron/ironic/Rotten Milk playing a noise show in 2006 or Terry Richardson humping some girl's face in a Herve Leger dress. Are there no other choices here? Why do we so accept what is prescribed by these lunatics?

I don't mean to bag on the Rodarte's, but as they were the guest editors they're going to have to take some of the responsibility for how completely pedestrian the majority of the magazine turned out. I understand that part of the appeal of this particular issue are these fashion favorites, but I think that's something to think about as consumers, in particular, the way upon which certain designers have obtained unquestionable status. Weren't we taught by our parents to recognize when someone's having one over on us? Sometimes it feels like the current state of fashion is just one big joke to see how many girls can look like single moms from 1987 who still use Weasel Dust when they go out to party.

Paper doll version of the Rodarte designed dress for Leith Clark and said dress in actuality.

Maybe what has disenchanted me the most is Lula's representation as a tangible construct of the way in which things have changed both personally and culturally. While I'm all for evolution (thinking of you, Bill Hicks) I, like many people, have a difficult time with change, and try to acknowledge when I'm standing on the edge of nostalgia about to jump off. If Leith Clark created Lula with the understanding that this may be an unsuccessful magazine doomed to one issue then those first few issues embody the freedom of her true vision, and as the years passed by and the magazines gained more notoriety then the original concept is naturally corrupted.

The whole situation reminds me of the scene in 'The Crow' (then again, what doesn't?) where Top Dollar berates the leaders of the city's gangs for having made a mockery of Devils Night, as well as, its' commodification to the point where there are now greeting cards for the once anarchic shivaree. "It's all been done before, you see what I'm saying? I want you to set a fire, so goddamn big, that the gods'll notice us again!"

It seems as though Lula has become a tardy and thicker version of Zink, for pete's sake, and although the magazine is apparently self-published with few adverts in order to maintain more artistic control I implore Leith to reconsider how she has grown in the past 5 years, as well as, her readers and strive to break its' own perpetuated institution. That being said, it is worth the trouble to seek out the past issues, but I have a feeling that just like the predictable hoopla that surrounds certain "IT" items gals will be duking it out on ebay snatching up number 11.

I guess you can't fight City Hall.

All images except for magazine pile are from Lula Magazine

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cultural Hijacking or Why I Love JC de CASTELBAJAC

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, while technically being a nobleman, is not what one would refer to as a 'serious man' at least not in terms of his fashion designs which teeter on representations of desexualized middle-aged women in Winnie the Pooh sweatshirts, novelty prints on PCP, and the recycling of cartoon iconography. One of the reasons why I admire Castelbajac, not only as a designer but as a smart cookie, is his thought process on the modern world and the way that he quite literally hijacks cultural images and appropriates them as grandiose illustrations that border on bat-shit crazy. The repetition of an image, primarily one that is in our own collective consciousness, is inherent to JC's work and creates an objectified whimsy that cannot help but transpose itself onto the wearer.
I look super pissed, but I wasn't... just concerned because my camera man was ill and I had broken out into chest hives 30 seconds earlier. I'm considering wearing this for my graduate school graduation in May, I figure it screams unadulterated professionalism. I paired it with a vintage tilt hat that I felt replicated Mickey ears and Louboutin 'Mondrian' wedges (which are all the rage at Bloodyminded shows) in order to get the full-on "Nicole has gone Waco" look. I mean Waco too, as in Texas, not wacko. That being said does one risk looking like an extra from 'Party Monster' while wearing Castelbajac's designs? In order to give my brain a break from writing about infant sexual abuse I wanted to play a little make believe game that's right in time for this holiday season entitled: "
"If I Had A Million Dollars and Paid Back My Student Loans These Are the Castelbajac Pieces I Would Buy My Friends"

Starting with Courtney who I figured was too dignified to wear a Muppet onesie like a broke-down middle-aged Betsey Johnson employee, I gift the crystal dream Castelbajac Eyeball Boom Box. Perfect for playing Riot Grrrl mixtapes from freshman year and the post modern sounds of Dead can almost hear the girls sings, "Across the Atlantic Ocean...". I imagine us in the summertime with crowns of flowers, old Lula magazines, and mini Sofia champagne dancing to Bratmobile.

Bryan is in charge of defending us all from attacks in foyers with the oversized JC sword and knight armor paired with a double-breasted Easton Ellis inspired blazer to defend us against girls who think they're movie critics. The sword also magically transports up to 4 people to Lincoln Square or Lincoln Park for Indian cuisine minus the hot sticky ball dessert. Please note that Bryan would never pair this gift with a light denim, but no one can help that the designer is an older Euro. So it goes.

I would very much like to buy this dress for my bestie, Bree, so that it gives her even more creative shouting power when acting like a 14 year old in the car. If calling Sarah Jessica Parker a "transvestite donkey witch" on cable tv doesn't give us loads of ideas then we'll stick with stand-bys such as, "BAD CREDIT" "PARENTS" and "CAUCASIANS". I was imaginatively torn between this dress and some of JC's leather pieces, but my best friend is classier than some a trixie wearing an ill-conceived Kim Cattrell Halloween costume. That being said, if Castelbajac ever does an Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees line I think we both know that we'd sell our bodies to the Mutter Museum in order to get in on that. Fo'real.

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit...Manny! A practical investment piece for challenging people to duels, chokeholding people at parties that I throw, and smacking hipster scumbags all the way from The Whistler back to Rodan! This insures that my friend will continue hold it down rock steady while staying warm. It's not cool to be cold.

My pal Emily is no stranger to the multitude of Internet links that I bombard her with mostly for items that seem to reference British boarding school pupil meets equestrian coupled with items from Anthropologie that were created through the use of PCP. One of the more recent links was a comparison of a Castelbajac horse sweater with one that had been "appropriated" by the above store, was similar in price, and looked like the dream fuzzy of a living 'Cathy' comic strip. I wouldn't get that for my friend. No way. Instead I'd fork out the dough for this sequin dress with real horsey hair waving in the wind while she spills whiskey over the teal satin. Bridesmaid dress anyone?

My girl, Victoria could run around town sliding like a drunk penguin on Marni wedges with the best of cultural recycling...Union Jack + Dead Icon= Too soon for the upcoming royal wedding! I'd pay for her to get a Chelsea cut and then stock her with the best Hasidic wigs that my coin could buy. The dress exemplifies sincerity as does Victoria...imagine if this was a Jeremy Scott...there would be a reverse silk-screen of the car accident guaranteed. Not Castelbajac. The leather skeleton gloves hint at the slightest bit of morbidity and echo the air of everyones favorite royal.

For Michelle I'd invest in a dress from the classic "Lego" print collection which would provide a secret decoding of how much she means to all the people that love her and think that she's the top drawer.

When faux-buying items for your boyfriend's friend whom you've only actually me once it pays to reference their work as a composer, so in turn I gift this to you Nat. In my fantasy you sit in your home with the windows slightly fogged from the drizzling rain writing your lovely compositions wearing this sweater that now has cat fur permanently interwoven into the fabric. You wash home-grown vegetables while humming the tune that will catapult your genius into the collective consciousness.

Finally, to my main squeeze, my one and only, Mister Pinguino, Meow Meow...I've foolishly spent my last imagined penny on an appropriated image of a Native American on what I'm assuming is a cashmere pullover. That is, it better be for the sake of my fantasy. I know that you'll truly appreciate the irony of the appropriated stolen appropriated then stolen then recycled then put through the post-modern machine into fibers upon which you listen to Rage Against the Machine's "Evil Empire" while rolling down Rodeo.
Well that was fun! In the end that's exactly why I adore JC/DC's work, in that, it is a literal interpretation of a side smirk...tongue-in-cheek...completely bonkers. Here is a man who consciously decided to make creations for the world that are filled with joyfulness and the happiness that comes from the memories of familiar childhood cartoons, toys, and brightness of being. There's this lovely quote that he once said, "I think the icons for today are too much just an image. You have a duty as an icon, the duty is to give, the duty is generosity", and that is exactly what he has given all of us...the opportunity to express ourselves as playful and light, and to inspire smiles on the on-lookers as a sequined Snoopy passes by.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dizzy With A Dame: The Ladies of Boardwalk Empire and the Celebration of Repeal Day

Lovely female cast of "Boardwalk Empire" photo via Vanity Fair

I hate to admit that I've developed a bit of an interest in a television show that is, besides "Hoarders", which not only serves as casual lessons on how to do cognitive-behavioral therapy, but also functions as a back-up plan in case my father continues to collect antique blowtorches (He's at 200+). I started watching "Boardwalk Empire" while enjoying cable TV during a house sitting gig, primarily because the owner of said house had set some sort of recording device and I was unable to change the channel. The series has become increasingly popular from the formulaic standpoint of soap opera plot lines that appeal to both genders, the exquisite costumes, politically incorrect dialogue, a sprinkling of authentic slang, and the lionization of nostalgia that seems to equal hit TV show. Oh, and there also appears to be a contractual obligation to show off Paz de la Huerta's juggies and honey badger every episode. Jus'sayin'.

The Crusaders

The show begins on the night of January 15th, 1920 wherein Prohibition will go into effect at Midnight, and most residents of Atlantic City are engaged in a celebratory mourning of their exiled friend Alcohol. This includes people running around the boardwalk with baby carriages filled with bottles of booze, and a bash in which the viewer is introduced to the city's Treasurer and unspoken ruler of Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson, played by an actor who certainly deserves his dues, Steve Buscemi. The show is visually lovely and historically apt, however it is a little hard to drink the Kool-Aid in considering Buscemi a sex me once you see him humping away on de la Huerta the first thought is sure to be, "That's the dude from Trees Lounge" not a aural cue for Blondie from "American Gigolo".

The show, as stated previously, deals directly with the effects that Prohibition have on Atlantic City, and consequently, Nucky's rise in both political and gangland power over the its residents. Certain elements of side plot lines explore the birth and popularity of the KKK, the haunting aftermath of WWI veterans coming home physically and psychologically broken, issues of hidden homosexuality, and a turning point in history regarding women's political power in the form of the 19th Amendment as well. The viewer experiences a deja vu, in many respects, of a past world that is not unlike our own current age, in which xenophobic political parties vie for power, returning soldiers articulate a growing concern for PTSD, and women stand idle while their rights are whittled away by an unchanging amount of white dudes still in power. 1920 vs. 2010? Well, we have teenage fashion bloggers.

Repeal Day Celebration 1933, Chicago

One of the aspects that separates "Boardwalk Empire" from other historically-driven television series, such as say "Mad Men", is this relationship to the modern era and the similarity to our own economic crisis and looming militarism. The original Presidential candidate for "change", Franklin Roosevelt, ran on the "New Deal" ticket that would not only catapult the United States out of the Great Depression through (one economic sector) the reinstatement of alcohol manufacturing and distribution, but also drive a stake into the criminal underworld that had profited for over a decade on the illegal sale of this gut rot. On December 5th, 1933 prohibition ended thus leaving "Boardwalk Empire" with at least 12 more potential seasons of bootlegging, murder, betrayal, snitching, goons, and 9 years until the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Beautiful Twists: Margaret Schroeder and Lucy Danzinger of "Boardwalk Empire"

By the end of 1930 the majority of Americans had subsequently been effected by the Great Depression with fashion becoming increasingly influenced by a more serious and Conservative approach; rather than the light-hearted gaiety of the Roaring Twenties. Hemlines returned to ankle-length along with natural waistlines that emphasized a more "womanly" figure, in contrast to the androgynous silhouette of the 20s, and "Gone With The Wind" being credited by Vogue as the most influential film for fashion during this time period. While the female characters of "Mad Men" may have impacted the ladylike Fall '10 season, as seen most editorialized at Prada and Louis Vuitton, the diaphanous chiffon, calf-length skirts, and transparent garb that permeated the Spring '11 runways. Mark my blog, by next year we'll all be swimming in a sea of waistless beaded dresses, t-strap heels, and cloche hats. Oh wait...that was the November Anthropologie catalogue....

Fashions of 1933 (L) and vintage black velvet dress with lace bird detail (R)

To celebrate Repeal Day my guy took me out to Encore Lounge, which shoulders the Hotel Allegro (then called the Bismarck) the site of the first legal beer tapped in Chicago! The five course German-themed meal included Bavarian Pretzels with Dusseldorf Mustard, German Potato Salad, German Lentil Stew, Breaded Pork Chop with vegetables, and a lovely German Chocolate Cake. All during Hanukkah, I know! Each of the courses was paired with a special beer including one made specifically for the celebration entitled, "The Bismarck", which was a Munich Dunkel Rye. Don't ask me what that means. I don't drink beer. Instead I got Micky Finned by some delightful martinis and Beef Tenderloin mini sandwiches.
I was slightly overdressed, but when else am I going to break out the gown except when we get discount tickets to the Lyric Opera. The dress was purchased during a past life from Antique Dress who has one of the best vintage websites around...sure some of the items are completely bananas, but the woman who runs it borders on OCD information regarding each piece and has layaway. It's like the Burlington Coat Factory for vintage clothing!

Close-up of vintage pearl clutch

The entire experience was aces, and I highly recommend Encore Lounge for an ingenious balance between the modern and retro without the pretense of other downtown establishments. My guy and I walked towards the train swearing that we could make this place a haunt of ours, and I hear the manager is a real dapper fella! To repeal day, to a fancy new show on the telly, and to the fashions of a bygone era...


Friday, December 3, 2010

Jealousy Kills Girl Love: Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland, and the War of the Schmatte

"All my friends would say, 'Kat's vampyric, watch it.' and I'd say, 'No way, I love her!' "
-Courtney Love

"All my friends would say, 'Courtney's copying,' and I'd say, 'No way, not Courtney, she's my best friend!' " -Kat Bjelland

Looking at the picture above of Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland there is an unmistakable resemblance to be seen...the platinum blond hair, the pale skin, the brilliant flash of red lipstick, and the textures of two thrifted dresses, but more than the physicality its a lovely photo of two best friends that appear to be genuinely happy.
I decided to break out one of my favorite kinderwhore dresses for old time's sake along with a very antique tiara (whose previous owner received it as Homecoming Queen in 1935!), and some good old-fashioned "writing on the arms" as the ultimate photographic accessory! Historically, I didn't go for the "slut", "whore", or "rape" that other Riot Grrrls wrote on themselves...just made me a linguistics lover the homonym always appealed to me! Also, I never really bought into the reclamation of those words as being positive...sort of reminds me of a certain word that the Caucasians are never supposed to say, and to quote Carl Pope Jr. "The Use of the "A" instead of the "ER" changes everything!". Holy guacamole! Doesn't it though! Getting back to the Kinderwhore War I always loved how Courtney admitted that she ripped off the look from Christina Amphlett (above) while remaining positively possessive about being the owner of the style during the early 90's. In the infamous Vanity Fair article the got Frances Bean temporarily snatched away from the Cobains, Courtney was quoted as saying:

"Kat has stolen a lot from me...dresses, lyrics, riffs, guitars, shoes. She even went after Kurt. That was the last straw. Because I put up with the lyrics stealing. And I put up with her going to England first in the dress that I loaned her. Now I can't wear those fucking dresses in England anymore!"

We all see how completely bananas that statement is, right? Courtney admits that she loaned the dress to Kat, and then didn't think bitch was gonna wear it? Like its a pajama dress or something?! I mean, I totally related as a teenager when you live and die for your identity and where friendships are so intense that it's extraordinarily easy to enter into the "frenemy" zone. I myself, had a bestie at one time that was equally as obsessed with Courtney and Co. as I was and we both began to collect clippings and vintage dresses during PI (that's pre-internet). That's ebay. No hipster website run by girls wearing "Rapist Glasses" and the entire American Apparel wholesale catalog.

Once we ended up finding a long sleeve blue velvet dress from the 60s with a lace bib, lace ruffle at the sleeves, and tiny blue buttons down the chest. In other words, the perfect kinderwhore dress...and true to the
Judgment of Solomon neither one of us had enough money to buy the dress...unless we put out money together! The shared dress ultimately became the symbol of the dissolution to our friendship, and the longer it went back and forth between us the more we both realized that there could only be one Babydoll look-a-like in our high school!

Kathi Wilcox of Bikini Kill (L) and Christina Billotte of Slant 6(R)
So...there was time, during the early nineties, that grievances seemed to be best aired and dealt with on the answering machine, and then without fail end up sampled on records as the eternal reminder of whatever temper tantrum the person had at the moment. Answering machine rants had to have something to do with the rising popularity of spoken word, which occurred around the same time in the scene, because that's the only logical reason why someone would leave seemingly permanent evidence of themselves being bat-shit crazy.
One of my favorite messages was left on Kim Shattuck's machine, and can be heard here, in which Courtney Love addresses the "kinderwhore" debate. The Muffs later went on to name one of their albums, "Blonder & Blonder" in reference to Courtney's alleged dis on Kim and the insinuation that once again someone was stealing Court's mad steez. Kathi Wilcox (above left) invoked the kinderwhore style during the early days of Bikini Kill, but seemed to shift away from the vintage babydoll look as soon as the rivalry between CLove and the Riot Grrrl scene emerged. It may have something to do with this sassy quote:
"I saw this little riot grrrl in Spin who was holding a little magazine called Princess. She's 15, but everything in her little riot grrrl world - like Hello Kitty products - is telling her to act like she's seven. That's not feminism, it's cultural anorexia." -Courtney Love
I'd actually like to see this picture Courtney is referring to because I had a zine called "Princess", and I definitely looked like a Sanrio addict that got crazy with the black marker. Anyway...there was a palpable schism within the riot grrrl community over whether or not you could or should support Courtney Love/Hole since there was obvious beef between her and Bikini Kill and okay, well EVERYBODY. Could it have been as simple as the fact that Tobi Vail (BK's drummer) was the ex-girlfriend of Kurt Cobain? Or was it because as much as Courtney critiqued a patriarchal society it was always terribly apparent that it was one that she wanted desperately to fit into. We all know the reasons why people bully others, but in Courtney's case it was still hard not to cheer on the underdog.

Love and Bjelland on the steps of the Babes in Toyland Lollapalooza Tour Bus
What started as passive-aggressive gossip in an insular independent music scene between mutual friends soon became accusations in print from Vanity Fair to Neal Karlen's book written while following Babes after being signed to Warner Bros. Karlen's book has an understood slant toward Bjelland's version of who started the babydoll trend and characterized the rivalry as the "War of the Schmatte", after the filming of the music video for "Bruise Violet" which featured artist Cindy Sherman as Kat's evil Doppelgänger (a not so subtle allusion to Courtney Love) whom she strangles in the end. The completion of the music video, which was assumed to endow Kat as the originator of the Kinderwhore look in the collective consciousness of MTV viewers, was only shown a few times on the late-night alternative rock show 120 Minutes, and received a 20 second critique on Beavis and Butthead.
Courtney's version of the rivalry was much more intrinsic to the ambition and success that she felt Kat was having through the use of this schtick, and not necessarily having another female have similar stylistic leanings. There was a direct relationship to the time in which it suddenly became unacceptable for two Carroll Baker twins to exist, and it was coincidentally when Babes in Toyland released Spanking Machine and began to tour Europe with indie wunderkinds, Sonic Youth. In Poppy Z. Brite's book, "Courtney Love: The Real Story" Courtney references the Karlen book by stating:

"I felt molested and stolen from constantly and it wasn't until a female friend not only wrote about me, but also took some of my own persona from me. Kat took this and created her own world with it. It really moved me to get off my ass and do it myself. I thank her."

Through this account it is clear that the origin of Courtney's accusations stem from another female gaining popularity and credibility in a scene while also being a more naturally patriarchal standard of beauty than Courtney was during this time. When Courtney eventually married the Deity of Alternative Rock, its no wonder that people assumed it was the ultimate career move, and after the marriage the War of the Schmatte suddenly became obsolete, in that, interest in Love catapulted her into a truly public eye as the new Mrs. Cobain.
In the end, the one person who immediately flew to Seattle to be by Courtney's side after Kurt Cobain's suicide was her rival/best friend Kat, and in Courtney's time of grief it appeared that there was no other person that she would have rather shared a black dress with at that moment than her friend.

Monday, November 29, 2010

And Then There Were Two: Fashion and Fragmentation in Black Swan

I was blessed to get advanced screening tickets, in what I can only assume was an early Hanukkah gift from the universe, to see "Black Swan" last night and chose to attend when I should have stayed home to work on a paper (ironically) about dissociative disorder that is due a week earlier then I thought it was. Insert me crying. In fact there were a multitude of scenes in the movie that can articulate the graduate school experience. My favorite, and apparently one of the film's more squeamish scenes, was the use of dermatillomania (skin-picking for those who don't have the DSM-IV tattooed in their gulliver) along with the seemingly real bleeding cuticles that haunt the first half of the movie. My hands end up looking like Freddy Krueger whenever there's a paper looming over me, or say....forgetting the due date to one. At the risk of writing any spoilers to the movie we all know that girl is trippin'- right? We all GOT that from the trailer? I'm not ruining it for anybody...well unless you were some nice, white, middle-aged women that saw it last night and evidently assumed that it was a film about pretty ballerinas. Then my most sincere apologies,'s not.

One aspect of the film that resonates quite physically with the audience is the sense of vertigo that occurs through the camera work, and the literal spinning of the ballet moves. This seems to have also upset many of the movie-goers last night who along wth being uncomfortable at seeing female masturbation can't handle the shaky camera technique last seen in "Requiem for a Dream". I appreciated the disequilibrium that the spinning envoked, and its' consequential allignment with Nina's character who is quite literally spinning out of control. Aronofsky forces the viewer the remain in the character's tightly controlled and ragingly fearful world in which self-mutilation, anorexia, and panic attacks are as natural as brushing your teeth. The strength of the film is in the message that it conveys of the complexity of female sexuality, and in turn the way upon which society constucts our ability to express it. The dissociative nature of the main character is painful to watch as the conscious and unconscious pirouette into a perfectly controlled chaos. Perhaps what resonates the most is the way upon which females continue to be defined by these constraints, not only at the hands of guys, but our fellow ladies as well.

In Thomas Mann's novella of the same name the concept of societal attitudes on aging and the awakening of female sexuality are fleshed out just as they are expressed by Nina, and in a role akin to the mother in Haneke's "The Piano Teacher", the character's mother. The overwhelming sense of the expiration date of the ballerina, which is brilliantly articulated by Nina's mother (a former dancer), the previous principal ballerina who is ousted (Winona Ryder's part), and finally Portman's role that hinges desperately on gaining the role of the Swan Queen. Each of these women exemplify the terrifying experience of aging out and as Mann wrote, eventually being eaten alive by our own determination to remain ripe.
The result is one that speaks very specifically to the female audience as a personal reminder of the looming nature that time controls, and consequently the lengths we go to remain youthful and relevant (in North America, that is). The devestation of lost dreams and the ways upon which we bribe, cajole, and court our own youth through self-destruction, and what now seems to be the trend of invidious consumption. For me, I can't help but be influenced from a psychological perspective of the metaphorical murder of our mothers as part of our own separation-individuation and our own Electra complex. In the end, I am reminded of "Irreversible"s conclusive statement. TIME. DESTROYS. ALL. THINGS.

I decided to attempt my own version at fashion fragmentation because I'm still 8 years old and playing dress up. White Swan wears a Marc Jacobs headpiece, Marc Jacobs "Swan print" Dress (Detail Below), and thanks to the bookcase I am successfully en pointe. I was not, nor have I ever been in ballet...that is not a possibility when you grow up, let's say, "lower working class". You feel me.
Black Swan wears a headpiece from Paris department store Printemps, a tulle and feather Cynthia Rowley dress, and Dior shoes.
I haven't quite figured out how to wear the swan dress out in public, being 4ft. 11" it just doesn't have the same effect as it did on the models from the runway. Also it has side slits to my lower buttocks and shows my tattoos, which...I usually don't. The simple answer is to have the slits sewn shut and to hem it, but them again I'm stubborn when it comes to irresponsible and irrational purchases. Sue me.

Oh geez, I think this is from Spring 2008, the show where Mr. Jacobs cleverly reversed the model order on the crazy train, most likely giving editors a fright thinking the man was running out to say the show was cancelled. Most recently the image of the swan has shown up on a terribly contrived dress from the Spring 2011 Miu Miu collection which, in my humble opinion, was lazy and derivative. I'm not putting a picture up because 1. you can see it for yourself on 2. it's already on 3,473 blogs by now 3. because the collection shouldn't be marveled at merely because Miuccia caught wind of popular culture and threw a swan on a dress. I say these things because I love Miuccia. She was a former Communist..just like me. It's tough love and I know hardly anyone else will call out the nudie Emperor.
Anyway, I digress. The swan is a naturally feminine symbol especially in the case of a pair necking creating the formation of a heart, and we all know what a heart is derived from...oy vey! These archetypes! In terms of its historical reputation the swan represents beauty, grace, tranquility, purity, and above all transformation...the symbolism in dreams echoes that of the unconscious vying for the dreamer's attention towards looking into the water for a deeper sense of self. It's no wonder that the animal is an innate characterization of beauty, thus continuing to represent an iconoclastic muse for designers.

And finally meet Wellington, my giant Victorian stuffed swan. He becomes incredibly dusty and not in the Springfield way. I admit that I've personified Wellington to a certain degree, but that's only because he's so damn dignified looking. Naturally, this makes me a slightly looney "swan lady". I'll accept that and leave you with one of my absolute favorite bands...Giant Drag and their stunning rendition of "Swan Song" .
It's true,
ps. I hope nothing got ruined for anyone. No tears. Please.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Like Pagliacci Did: The Use of Clowns in Fashion

Miu Miu Spring '08
When I first began to think about clowns as an archetype for female fashion I couldn't help but remember one of my favorite Miu Miu collections featuring a doll-up Kristen Dunst as a nymphet harlequin in hemlines that make my weiner hard. The use of the harlequin as an influence as opposed to the traditional clown is intriguing as its' origin from French passion plays is no less than a black-faced emissary of the devil that roams around the countryside chasing damned souls to Hell. I wonder if Miuccia was slyly referencing the particular dress of the female as a way upon which men are driven wild (for all intensive purposes) and females are provoked into jealousy? Since I can't ask Miuccia directly I'll just assume that the influence of the harlequin, and in particular the designs for this label, reference the elastic nature of the performer while also implying the naivete of the character as inferred by the both charming and callow nature of the advertisement above.

Left: Erin Fetherston Fall '09 Right: Moschino Spring '09
In contrast to the puerile vision of the Miu Miu girl, both Fetherston and Moschino show a more comical vision of femininity that displays a variant theme on the literal buffooning of women's fashion. Through the use of exaggerated collars, headpieces, and detailing the designers successfully obscure the female form while concurrently showcases an obvious costume rather than design. That being said, I don't believe there's any harm or disservice to the above designs particularly with the historical model that has been shown at Moschino since its inception. It is, however, a clever nod to the notion that women will wear what is deemed to be in fashion regardless of the piece of clothing actually enhancing their natural features.
Perhaps it is unfair to include anything from Japanese fashion week as an example of clown as muse, however it is particularly in this flippant expression of fashion that the designer is most forthright. If Moschino and Fetherston encourage women to playfully incorporate exaggerated details into their wardrobes while maintaining a classic color palette, then the unknown Japanese designer appears to promote a world in which figures and limbs are as equally obscured as faces. In creating this unrealistic vision does the Japanese designer negate their own collection and relegate it to overzealous harajuku girls or American tourists buying into an inane avant-garde?

The enduring inspiration of the clown is in its' clandestine nature both emotive and physically, in that the latter remains camouflaged and therefore de-sexualized, whereby the former assumes an instinctual emotional dread. If one does not know what is underneath the bulbous suit nor what actual affect is being displayed the incorporation of the clown motif appears to represent the antithesis of the development of visual recognition skills established soon after birth. While the consequence this fashion cache may lead to the desire to see the "clown" stripped of its' novelty the adherence to deception more often than not affirms the horror of the unknown, and essentially supports the fear of the clown.

If the Japanese design assumes a theme of the veiled figure, then the above use of balloons as couture fabrications convey a light-hearted juxtaposition of farcical fashion with an untouchable wall of rubber that apparently only last one night (in contrast to the 10 hours of construction and hour and a half of fitting on the model). Balloon fashion has recently been shown during the Kim Tom Clown Festival fashion show in Shanghai, China with ensembles ranging upwards of $2,000 for the time-sensitive outfit.
The nature of the balloon is vulnerable and fleeting much like the cyclical trends of fashion and it's economic influence over women; in referencing the novelty of Paper Clothing in the 1960s, the concept of disintegration and disposability is sharply contrasted to the extreme cost of the balloon garb. Imagine showing off your wealth by the deliberate destruction of each balloon "thread" with the prick of a pin! $10 here... $40 there! Perhaps a more practical question would be how the model uses the bathroom in a balloon dress...although that has certainly not stopped women in the past from wearing constrictive clothing..just ask Daphne Guinness.

In I Pagliacci, the character of Canio is driven mad by hatred and jealousy of his wife's betrayal, and in a murderous rage the performance becomes a reality as he stabs both her and lover to death in front of the audience who assume it is part of the show. As Canio drops the knife and turns to the spectators he yells out, "La commedia e finita! (The comedy is over!)", and with that exclamation the facade of the clown disappears to reveal the genuine nature of the cuckolded man before his peers. The dance of the deception is no longer an option and Canio voyeuristically sheds the costume of the clown in order to once again be seen as a man.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that I am personally drawn to the clown as an archetype, in that I think each one of us wears a mask that if both difficult to relinquish while being extraordinarily easy to demand from others. By using fashion as a frivolous and novel distraction we become the products of our own deliberate representations while never revealing our true uniformity. It's simple to become a mass without hair or make-up or jewelry or stylized clothing...I mean, concentration camps? Did this really end up at WWII? This was supposed to be light-hearted. Regardless, the symbol of the clown is universal as both a fool and an example of obscured drives which is no doubt why as a model it so closely resembles the costumed nature of our own projected personalities.
It's true,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

White as RRIICCEE: An Evening with Vincent Gallo

Out of the roughly 100 people attending the RRIICCEE concert nearly all of us were Caucasian except for two Asians spotted near the front of the stage talking at the end of the encore-less show. There were also quite a few people that looked like they were on dates; which unless you met on personals this is a fairly inappropriate show to spend money on trying to get ass. A few interesting points about the show:

1. People didn't clap after the first two songs because apparently they thought they were viewing a Marina Abramovic piece.

2. There was absolutely no photography allowed per Gallo's "Insanity Rider". The interns working at Lincoln Hall were as vigilent as the guards at Auschwitz. Surprisingly, no one attempted to be a rulebreaker, but that could've been influenced by point #3.

3. Gallo performed a la Jim Morrison via Kathi Wilcox of Bikini Kill, that is, with HIS BACK TURNED on the audience nearly the entire set. I considered yelling, "GROW UP!" at the performer formerly known as Prince Vince, but realized that if he mentioned that I paid my hard earned dollars for this horse hockey; I'd cry. Big nickel and dime tears too.
4. No encore.

5. He covered "Moon River" by Henry Mancini. It was one of those moments that was so gorgeous and utterly perfect until my mind was invaded with dialogue from the Sex and the City "I Heart NY" episode, and then it was ruined completely with images of Mr. Big and Carrie Bradshaw doing a contrived slow-motion dance together. Thanks a lot modern girl memory.
This is what the RRIICEE show could have looked like if the Belvedere Vodka spokesman could stop projecting a great wall of pain and isolation to a roomful of people in black. Maybe I'm still harboring ill will after a sour ebay interaction where Mr. Gallo yelled at me to remove a test pressing of one of his records because he couldn't handle other people besides himself having one...I believe I responded with, "you must have an awful lot of time since yr not making movies to look for yourself on ebay".
Whatever. The end result of the show was everything I imagined it could possibly be and I do mean that in the most sincere way possible. Afterall, I'm the one who got Brown Bunny-ed forking over the dough to see his Highness jack off his guitar. I only wish I would have had the guts to have sounded my air horn in both protest and delight in seeing a grown man croon the phrase, "Honey bunny" and "Love me forever". Mr. Gallo, the first step in opening yourself up to love is facing those who adore you.
It's true,
Gallo photos: owned by him, I'm sure.
Bikini Kill photo: owned by some former riot grrrl, I'm sure.